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Sex study explores 'bad' orgasms

Orgasms don't always mean a sexual encounter is positive, find psychologists.

  • A new study finds that reaching an orgasm doesn't always indicate the sexual encounter was pleasurable.
  • A variety of reasons were reported by participants for "bad" orgasms.
  • Communication is key to improving sexual experiences, maintain the scientists.


The psychology of human sexual behavior is often not what you'd expect. Even if sex is consensual and leads to an orgasm, that experience can still be very negative, reveals a new study.

The study was co-authored by Sara B. Chadwick, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, Miriam Francisco, and Sari M. van Anders, a professor at Queen's University. The researchers got interested in figuring out whether "bad" orgasms can exist after finding out through other research that orgasms are far from simple.

"There seems to be a widespread assumption that orgasms during consensual sex are always positive, but research had never explored the possibility that they might be negative and/or non-positive under some circumstances," explained the psychologists.

The study involved 726 adult subjects, recruited through online ads. The researchers looked at orgasmic experiences during forced sex, consensual but unwanted sex, and while being pressured to have an orgasm. 289 of the subjects gave descriptions of their bad orgasms.

In an interview with Psypost, Chadwick and van Anders shared that people shouldn't assume that just because their partner reached an orgasm they had an enjoyable experience.

"People who have had orgasms during unwanted or undesirable encounters should note that their orgasm does not mean they liked it or secretly 'wanted' what was happening — it is okay to have mixed or even entirely negative feelings about a sexual encounter where you had an orgasm," explained the scientists.

Rutgers psychology professor Barry Komisaruk on "Why Some Women Can't Have Orgasms"

How does sex end up being bad even with an orgasm? The participants explained scenarios ranging from being pressured to have an orgasm just to please an unhappy partner to experiencing emotional detachment, frustrations or even feelings of being betrayed by their bodies. Some religious participants felt shame and guilt afterwards.

The authors say that some men regard the orgasms of their partners as a "masculinity achievement," leading to women feeling the need to have an orgasm to assuage their male partner's ego.

Factors like sexual orientation and gender identity also have an influence. Bisexual subjects described the pressure to orgasm to "prove" their bisexuality to partners of other genders. Some transgender participants viewed orgasms as reminders "of being in the wrong body."

On the other hand, bad orgasms could in some cases lead to better outcomes, especially with regards to communication between partners.

The researchers shared that in order to have good sex, it's important to pay attention not only to the clear needs of their partners but also the unspoken cues like nonverbal communication and gestures. A partner could be ready to finish the sexual encounter even if it hasn't resulted in an orgasm.

Pushing someone to have sex or continue with it when they don't want to can lead to feelings of coercion and being ignored.

"People can have orgasms during unwanted sex, sex that has complicated, mixed-feeling moments, or even just mediocre/boring sex. Orgasm does not automatically make the sex 'great' and it does not invalidate negative feelings about certain parts of the encounter or the encounter in general," concluded the psychologists.

You can check out their study "When Orgasms Do Not Equal Pleasure: Accounts of 'Bad' Orgasm Experiences During Consensual Sexual Encounters" in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Thinking Yourself to Orgasm

The relation between the mind and sexual response is still fertile ground ...

Is the universe a graveyard? This theory suggests humanity may be alone.

Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?

According to the Great Filter theory, Earth might be one of the only planets with intelligent life. And that's a good thing (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA]).
Surprising Science

Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.

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The key to better quality education? Make students feel valued.

Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.

Future of Learning
  • Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
  • One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
  • "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
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Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

A truck pulls out of a large Walmart regional distribution center on June 6, 2019 in Washington, Utah.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
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Personal Growth

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

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